Like smartphones, cars and many other aspects of modern life, cycling is in a continual state of evolution. As technology has developed, our rides have become more and more adapted to the task at hand, with road bikes laser-focused on achieving maximum speeds on tarmac, and mountain bikes precision-engineered for climbs, descents and all the bumpy bits in between.
As brilliant as all that specialisation is, however, it can come at the cost of versatility. As we know, road bikes tend to struggle when the tarmac isn’t velvety smooth, while an MTB can be overkill on anything other than gnarly trails – so what about the in-between?
The good news is that there’s an exciting way to bridge the gap between the two extremes, and Specialized (opens in new tab)’s extensive range of gravel bikes provides plenty of compelling reasons to put riding gravel at the top of your to-do list.
Gravel cycling has become one of the most exciting and fastest-growing ways to get around on two wheels and that’s partly because it can be anything you want it to be.
Gravel bikes incorporate elements of road, cyclocross and mountain bikes to create a versatile hybrid that has plenty in common with each, yet feels entirely its own thing. With its geometry and drop bars, a gravel bike’s silhouette has echoes of your standard road machine. But if you look a little closer, it becomes clear that a gravel bike can transport you way beyond hard surfaces.
Gravel bikes are often designed with longer reach for comfort and stability, making them ideal for a long day in a saddle, while the fact they’re fitted with wider, more durable tyres than a standard road bike allows them to handle a much larger variety of terrain. It’s a blend that creates a bike that’s equally at home on speedy stretches of open road and challenging forest trails. In other words, riding gravel is a broad church that gives you the freedom to cycle how you want to.
For the seasoned road cyclist, going gravel can add a new dimension to your riding as you escape the confines of the road without having to turn your back on the sense of freedom and speed that made you fall in love with the sport in the first place.
For newcomers to cycling, meanwhile, gravel’s versatility means you can get yourself a new bike, even if you haven’t worked out if you prefer riding on- or off-road, or on a mixture of the two. Indeed, with a gravel bike, you never have to make that choice.
Having a bike that performs equally well on roads, dirt tracks, woodland trails and beyond makes it perfect for exploring, and getting closer to nature. Gravel bikes are also ideal for bikepacking, particularly for anyone who fancies getting a little further away from the beaten track.
Best of all, riding gravel is a great leveller, bringing together riders of all cycling tastes and abilities. Whether you want to compete with your racing buddies for a Fastest Known Time, or simply fancy embracing the social side of riding with friends and family, gravel biking is remarkably inclusive – especially when you bring the additional power of Specialized’s e-bikes into the equation.
Here are four amazing Specialized bikes to get you started on your gravel riding journey:
Diverge (opens in new tab)
The Diverge is a brilliant all-rounder designed to give you speed, control and confidence on any terrain – so much so that Specialized describes it as the most capable gravel bike ever made. Its Future Shock 2.0 tech provides hydraulically damped travel to protect your hands, arms and shoulders from the bumps, while the progressive geometry gives you the confidence to keep your hands off the brakes that little bit longer.
One of the big challenges facing designers of gravel bikes is maintaining a smooth ride without compromising the instant acceleration and direct handling you get from a rigid frame. The new Diverge STR adds Future Shock to the rear of the bike, adding 30mm of rear travel to help keep you safely in the saddle even when the trail gets bumpy, while ensuring you stay in control.
Crux (opens in new tab)
Specialized used the breakthroughs it made on its Aethos road bike to design what it believes to be the lightest gravel bike in the world – its frame weights less than a full water bottle! Combined with bigger tyre clearance, this lightweight design helps create an ultra-responsive, nimble and supple gravel bike.
You can add more power to your riding with Specialized’s Creo SL EVO e-bike. It’s got all the multi-surface versatility you’d expect from a gravel bike, of course, but – thanks to having the same motor, battery and frame as its road-based equivalent –can give you that little something extra when you’re exploring road and trail. Specialized says it’s also the lightest e-bike in its class.
It’s worth remembering that Specialized is also the place to go for all the supporting kit (opens in new tab) you need, including shoes, helmets, clothing, wheels and more. So whether you want to race at high speed, embark on a multi-day bikepacking adventure or simply cycle to a favourite village café for coffee and cake, when it comes to riding gravel, Specialized leads the way.
Head over to Specialized.com (opens in new tab) to learn more about riding gravel and the exciting bikes in its gravel range.